Activities: What Color Am I?
Suggested Grades 2-6
Adaptation, camouflage, defense, predators
Identification of various anuran species found in Minnesota
How does the color of a frog help its survival?
The skin of amphibians is important to their survival. It performs many
functions including camouflage, protection, and a warning to predators.
Many frogs and toads are dark green, brown, or black. This tone is produced
by melanin, a dark pigment. These frogs usually blend in with their surroundings
and their skin serves as a camouflage. Other anurans are brightly colored.
If the bright colors alternate with dark splotches the coloring may serve
as a warning to predators that the frog or toad is poisonous. Other frogs
and toads are not poisonous but have a colorful skin that the predators
associate with the poisonous varieties. Consequently, predators will often
avoid these species. Other anurans have bright red or yellow markings
on the undersides of their limbs that they display when in danger. The
fire-bellied toad has this ability called the "unken reflex" to flash
a colorful spot at a predator.
Amphibians have two kinds of color responses. Amphibians
in the larval stage will blanch in darkness. The second other color response
is when amphibians shift colors to match their backgrounds as a form of
protection. In a couple of hours a Tree Frog can change from a vivid green,
through a pattern of gray and green blotches, to a pale ash gray with
dark markings. These changes don't necessarily harmonize with the frog's
surroundings. Usually, they are a reaction to temperature. Other frogs,
such as the gray tree frog, can adjust their color according to changes
in light, moisture, chemicals and temperature.
After completion of this activity students will be able to:
1. Identify various species of anurans by their skin coloration
2. Describe how coloration contributes to survival.
Sketches of Minnesota frogs from the 'Thousand Friends of Frogs' newsletter
or the website located at: http://cgee.hamline.edu/frogs/science/mnfrogs.html
'The Toads and Frogs of Minnesota' poster produced by the Department
of Natural Resources or the "Frogs as Bio-Indicators' Science Corner of
the 'Thousand Friends of Frogs' website located at: http://cgee.hamline.edu/frogs/science/index.html
Crayons, markers or colored pencils
1. Have the students color the sketches found on the website or in the
'Thousand Friends of Frogs' newsletter.
2. When they are finished the students should share their pictures with
3. Students can practice identifying the various frogs and toads by their
What type of area would you find the frogs and toads you just colored?
Did you color them the same as they actually appear? Why or why not?
Why are frogs and toads colored the way they are?
Students can research and compare the coloration of frogs from different
biomes. Is there a correlation between habitat conditions and the coloring
of the anurans?
References and Resources
Eyewitness Books. 1993. Amphibian. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
National Wildlife Federation. 1987. Ranger Rick's Nature Scope: Let's
Hear it for Herps. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation.
Stebbins, Robert C. and Nathan W. Cohen. 1997. A Natural History of
Amphibians. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Click here for more information on how this activity correlates with standards.
6 Science Application (Living Systems)
Content Standard C Life Science (organisms and environments)
Strand 2.2 The Living Environment
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